Dogs’ whiskers hit the headlines
The national press has this week found another issue on which to attack the world of show dogs. The Sunday Times June 19th ran with the headline ‘Vets condemn cruel shaving of dogs’ faces and went on to quote a number of so-called experts supporting that headline.
Our Dogs understands that The Kennel Club Dog Health Group and the KC General Committee recently discussed this issue and carried out an extensive search of the published academic papers on the subject. As a result, the KC published its considered position on the issue in December of last year as follows: ‘Removal of dogs' whiskers (Vibrissae). The Kennel Club is aware that the removal of dogs’ whiskers (vibrissae) is carried out by owners of some specific breeds of dog. Whilst there appears to be no clear scientific evidence that this causes harm or discomfort to the dog in the same way that it has been shown to affect some rodents, there are those who believe that it may be detrimental to dogs.
‘The practice of removing coat – and thereby whiskers – from the muzzles of Poodles and some other breeds has long been carried out in the interests of hygiene and is now commonly performed by groomers of such breeds as Shih Tzu, Bichon Frise and Lhasa Apso for the same reason.
‘The Kennel Club is concerned however that the practice seems to be becoming more common in ‘clean faced’ breeds. They do not believe that any breed should have its whiskers shaved for purely cosmetic reasons and urges owners not to carry out this practice on dogs for any purpose other than cleanliness.’
These seem to be very sensible and balanced view of the issue, while the Sunday Times has given little coverage in its article, saying only ‘Caroline Kisko, of the Kennel Club, said it permitted the clipping of whiskers for hygiene purposes.’
The Sunday Times, however, quoted the rather more emotive comments from Harvey Locke, President of the BVA. ‘Dogs use their whiskers to give them direction and security, just like with your eyes or ears. Losing them is going to make the animal feel less secure. We are against removing them for purely cosmetic purposes.’
The RSPCA said: ‘We are opposed to the mutilation of animals for cosmetic purposes, which includes the removal of animals’ whiskers. This could seriously compromise the welfare of the animals concerned as well as cause considerable distress and suffering.’
The Swedish Kennel Club also took a very strong line on this topic recently and has issued instructions to judges that they should actually penalise the shaving of dog’s whiskers. This has met with considerable disapproval and derision among the judging community in Sweden.
The Kennel Club have condemned the shaving of whiskers for purely cosmetic reasons and this would apply to breeds like Whippets, Beagles, Pointers etc but they have quite rightly added that some breeds do have their whiskers cut when their faces are clipped for hygiene reasons.
Mike Davidsohn from Kiragleons Poodles said: One of the breeds mentioned in this article was my own. I have Poodles. If we did not ‘clip’ their faces, feet, tails and rear ends the non shedding Poodle Coat would continue to grow.
‘The facial coat would eventually cover the eyes and the dog would be unable to see, if it became dirty it could get into the dogs eyes and cause infections. Likewise around the mouth, food would get lodged and apart from looking disgusting this too could cause infections. I do not even want to discuss what would happen to the dogs tail and rear end!
‘How many pet owners don’t have their dogs groomed for months and then arrive at a grooming salon with a dog that is filthy and their coat heavily matted?
A spokesperson for The Pet Care Trust said: ‘The Pet Care Trust is aware of the practice of clipping and trimming vibrissae among certain breeds of dog, for hygiene and/or cosmetic purposes. There has been no recent research into the effects of whisker removal in dogs, and therefore the Trust feels that there is insufficient evidence to make a recommendation to British Dog Groomers’ Association members and the wider grooming industry to stop the practice. Naturally, we will monitor the position, and if well documented research indicating that there is any physiological or psychological damage to dogs comes to light, we will review the matter immediately’
OUR DOGS comments: This publicity should simply serve to make us all as conscious as ever of the fact that there are influential forces out there in the general public who are out to cause trouble for the world of show dogs and who are determined to make dog showing seem like an anti-social activity. Clearly someone is feeding material to papers like the Sunday Times which then start to make a big issue out of the subject and thus gaining eye catching headlines like ‘vets condemn cruel shaving of dogs faces’.
Sadly it doesn’t help when some of these forces appear to be backed up by representatives of respected organisations such as the BVA. The lesson to learn is that everyone in the dog showing fraternity should beware of doing anything which might play into the hands of those critics. We should be thankful that, on this occasion, the Kennel Club had already taken such a sensible and balanced view of the issue and taken a stance that most thinking dog people surely can support.
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